Research Task 3: Research visual and concrete poems

Coursework 1.2, Creative Arts 1.2 Creative Arts Skills, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 4: Evolving Creative Skills

Visual and concrete poetry play with the form of poetry by taking advantage of the physical aspect of words and their placement on the page. Here are two examples:

  1. “Easter Wings” by George Herbert: This is an early example of concrete poetry from the 17th century. The poem is printed sideways on two pages, so that the lines suggest the shape of a pair of wings when the pages are held together. This physical representation enhances the theme of human’s spiritual flight towards God.
  1. “A Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance” by Stéphane Mallarmé: A late 19th-century poem that uses typographical complexity to suggest multiple possible readings and interpretations. The scattering of the lines and the use of various font sizes on the page represent the chaos and chance of a shipwreck and the roll of the dice.

Reflecting on these poems, one can argue that the playfulness of these forms doesn’t detract from their seriousness but rather adds another layer of complexity and potential for interpretation. In the case of Herbert’s poem, the visual shape reinforces a religious theme, while in Mallarmé’s poem, the form itself represents the core theme of chance and chaos.

The question of seriousness vs playfulness in poetry is subjective and depends largely on personal taste and the cultural context of interpretation. There’s certainly a place in poetry for fun, playfulness, and exploration of form, as well as for more traditional and serious themes. The diversity of poetic expression is one of the strengths of the art form.

Research Task 2: Avant-garde versus traditional poetry

Coursework 1.2, Creative Arts 1.2 Creative Arts Skills, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 4: Evolving Creative Skills

Avant-garde poetry: Avant-garde poetry refers to poetry that pushes the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm. The avant-garde is considered by some to be a hallmark of modernism, as distinct from postmodernism. Many artists have aligned themselves with the avant-garde movement and still continue to do so, tracing a history from Dada through the Situationists to postmodern artists such as the Language poets around 1981.

Traditional poetry: Traditional poetry refers to the form of poetry that adheres to a definite verse structure or set of characteristics. Typically, traditional poetry is synonymous with formal poetry because it follows specific formats, such as sonnets, haikus, and odes, to name a few. It tends to follow consistent meter, rhyme, and musicality.

Postmodern literature: Postmodern literature is a form of literature marked by reliance on narrative techniques such as fragmentation, paradox, and unreliable narrators; and is often (though not exclusively) defined as a style or a trend which emerged in the post–World War II era. Postmodern works are seen as a response against the dogmatic following of Enlightenment thinking and Modernist approaches to literature.

Confessional poetry: Confessional poetry is a style of poetry that emerged in the United States during the late 1950s and early 1960s. It has been described as poetry of the personal, focusing on extreme moments of individual experience, the psyche, and personal trauma, including previously and occasionally still taboo matters such as mental illness, sexuality, and suicide, often set in relation to broader social themes.

New Formalism/Neo Formalism: New Formalism is a late 20th- and early 21st-century movement in American poetry that has promoted a return to metrical and rhymed verse. New Formalist poets believe in a return to more structured and set forms, not as an imitation of past models but as a modern choice that brings its own relevance and vitality.

The Cambridge School: The Cambridge School is a term sometimes applied to a group of poets centred around Cambridge University in the 1960s and 1970s, which included figures such as J.H. Prynne, Veronica Forrest-Thomson, and John Riley. Their work is characterized by strong intellectual content and difficulty arising from a high level of allusiveness, including reference to multiple languages and high culture sources from the Western tradition and a theory-infused approach.

Research Task 1: What is ‘experimental’ poetry?

Coursework 1.2, Creative Arts 1.2 Creative Arts Skills, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 4: Evolving Creative Skills

Reflections on Experimental Poetry: My Diary Entry

The term ‘experimental’ in the realm of poetry, or in any artistic domain for that matter, is an intriguing concept. It embodies the idea of breaking away from the confines of traditional norms, structure, and practices to forge new paths. It’s about embracing the unpredictability of the creative process and welcoming the unknown, the unexplored.

Experimental poetry might involve manipulating form, syntax, imagery, rhythm, or rhyme in ways that deviate from traditional expectations. It can also encompass the use of unconventional metaphors, the integration of non-linguistic symbols, or the blending of various artistic disciplines. Essentially, being ‘experimental’ in poetry is about transcending the boundaries of what is conventionally accepted or expected in pursuing creative innovation.

For me, the concept of experimental poetry mirrors my personal journey in writing. Having never studied poetry formally and not being a regular writer, I’m not bound by the traditional rules and norms. I find myself naturally leaning towards a more open-ended and experimental approach. I see this as a potential advantage. By not being entrenched in the traditional structures of poetry, I’m free to approach it with fresh eyes and an uninhibited spirit of exploration.

I see my experimentation as a journey of self-discovery through the world of words. I am open to trying different forms, challenging the standard conventions, and testing the boundaries of poetic expression. I’m interested in seeing how the structure of a poem can be altered to enhance its impact or how language can be twisted and turned to unveil new layers of meaning. I’m curious about how words, freed from their traditional syntax, can interact in unexpected ways to create striking imagery or profound emotional resonance.

This willingness to experiment, play, and challenge the status quo is what defines me as an ‘experimental’ writer rather than a ‘traditional’ one. Yet, I must mention that this doesn’t imply a complete rejection of tradition. Rather, it’s about learning from it, respecting it, but also daring to deviate from it when creativity calls for it.

In terms of my writing, its qualities can be considered experimental due to the non-linear and free-flowing style that I gravitate towards. I enjoy playing with words and their arrangements, not being confined by specific rules of rhythm or rhyme. I also lean into the abstract, using metaphors or imagery that might not typically be found in more traditional writing. This approach, I feel, gives my work a unique quality that reflects my personal experiences and creative voice.

In conclusion, being ‘experimental’ in poetry is about daring to explore uncharted territories, push boundaries and embrace the joy of artistic discovery. For me, it’s about expressing myself freely and authentically, even if it means breaking a few rules along the way. As I continue my journey in poetry, I look forward to further experimenting with this beautiful medium of expression.

Skills hub choice 2 – Playful Poetry

Coursework 1.2, Creative Arts 1.2 Creative Arts Skills, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 4: Evolving Creative Skills

My Journey into the World of Playful Poetry Techniques

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of words. The way they are arranged, how they interact with each other, and the potential meanings that lie within them have all been areas of interest. Yet, until recently, I have never explored this interest in a structured or academic way. This all changed when I undertook a self-portrait piece and found myself drawn to adding words into my work, and now, I am on the precipice of my next skills hub choice: experimentation with playful poetry techniques.

While creating my self-portrait, I discovered a newfound love for incorporating language into my artistic expression. I found that words could bring a new dimension of depth, intrigue, and personality to my work. They allowed me to communicate specific emotions and ideas, some subtly nuanced and others explicitly conveyed. I realised then that words could be as powerful as any image, brush stroke or colour palette in creating a profound impact on the viewer.

This revelation led me to consider planning and structuring my choice of words more meticulously. I began to see that there was a poetic potential in the language that I hadn’t tapped into. I started to see how every word, every phrase, could be a conscious choice, contributing to a larger whole, much like the strokes of a paintbrush in a painting. This realisation was both exciting and daunting, and I knew then that I wanted to learn more.

I have not studied poetry since my GCSEs, making this a significant challenge. But it’s precisely this challenge that excites me. Learning, after all, is about stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing your boundaries. It’s about not being afraid to make mistakes and to keep moving forward, and I’m excited to immerse myself in this world.

In this new skills hub choice, I am looking forward to learning about different poetry techniques and experimenting with them in a playful manner. I’m eager to learn about different forms, rhyme schemes, and poetic devices and to see how they can be utilized in creating an impactful piece of poetry. I am also curious to discover how these techniques could potentially enhance my self-portrait pieces, adding a layer of complexity and depth to my works.

However, this journey won’t merely be about acquiring new techniques. I want this to be an exploration of self-expression, creativity, and emotion as well. I want to understand how words can capture the essence of an experience, a memory, or a feeling. I want to learn how to convey these complexities through the simple yet profound medium of poetry.

So, here I am, embarking on this journey into the world of poetry. I am thrilled, a bit nervous, and profoundly curious about what lies ahead. I hope that through this process, I not only develop my skills in the art of poetry but also deepen my understanding of myself as an artist and as a person.

Exercise 3 – Authorship and Identity

Coursework 1.2, Creative Arts 1.2 Creative Arts Skills, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 3: Questions of Identity

Roland Barthes, The Death of the Author (1967) in Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, ed. A Barthes Reader (1982) New York: Hill and Wang. 

In Roland Barthes’ essay “Death of the Author,” he explores the concept of authorship and identity, challenging traditional notions of both. Barthes proposes that the identity of the author does not reside within their body but in the text’s voice, which is a composite of indiscernible voices. In this sense, literature is a device that obfuscates the author’s identity, with the text serving as a trap where identity is lost, including the very identity of the body that writes.

Barthes argues that the prominence of the author is a relatively modern concept, a product of a society that values the individual and their unique experiences. He posits that the author’s identity is often conflated with their work, with contemporary culture centring literature around the author, their history, their tastes, and their passions.

However, Barthes asserts that there have been attempts to dismantle this author-centric view. He cites examples of writers like Mallarme, who emphasized language over the author, suggesting that it is language that speaks, not the author. Barthes further elaborates on this point by stating that writing is not about expressing oneself but about letting language act and perform. He also provides examples from Proust and Surrealism, noting how they blurred the line between the author and their characters or played with language to subvert expectations.

Barthes proposes the absence of the author, not only as an act of writing but also as a transformative factor in the modern text. This absence changes our perception of time in literature. Instead of viewing the author as the progenitor of the text, the modern writer (or scriptor, as Barthes calls them) is born simultaneously with their text. There is no pre-existing being that transcends their writing; they exist only within the text’s utterance.

Finally, Barthes views a text not as a linear sequence of words bearing a single meaning but as a multidimensional space where various kinds of writing merge and compete. He suggests that a text is a tissue of citations, drawing from numerous sources of culture, with no single origin.

Reflecting on these insights, it’s clear that the concepts of identity and authorship are much more fluid and complex than they may initially seem. As an artist, this understanding can influence my creative process by encouraging me to question traditional notions of authorship and identity and to consider the roles of culture, language, and multiple voices in my work. It challenges me to think of my self-portraits not as a mere representation of my physical self but as a composite of various influences and voices, a product of language and culture. In this light, the act of creating self-portraits can be seen as a process of weaving a complex tapestry of citations from my experiences and the wider culture rather than merely projecting a singular, self-contained identity onto the canvas. This perspective can open up new avenues of exploration and expression in my work.

Exercise 2 – Picturing yourself in time and place

Coursework 1.2, Creative Arts 1.2 Creative Arts Skills, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 3: Questions of Identity

Exploring Self-Identity in the Digital Age: A Fusion of Morimura and Wearing

In my recent exploration of self-portraiture, I decided to meld the creative approaches of Yasumasa Morimura and Gillian Wearing, both artists who have extensively explored the concept of identity in their work. Alongside their influence, I incorporated the contemporary concern of digital manipulation and filters, which is profoundly changing how we present ourselves to the world.

Image 1: The Mask of Perfection

In the first image, I took a simple headshot of myself. I then utilised Photoshop to enhance the image—smoothing the skin, adding a youthful glow, brightening the eyes, and ensuring an overall happier expression. Essentially, I created an idealized, filtered version of myself, similar to the digitally enhanced selfies we often see on social media.

I then printed this image and fashioned it into a mask, which I wore for the final photographic piece. The resulting image is a striking commentary on how we often ‘wear’ idealised versions of ourselves, even when they may not align with our authentic feelings or experiences.

In creating this piece, I was heavily inspired by Gillian Wearing’s use of masks in her self-portraits. Like Wearing, I used the mask as a metaphor for the roles we assume and the faces we present to the world. Yet I added the element of digital manipulation to highlight the unique pressures and possibilities of our modern, digitally mediated world.

At the same time, I drew from Yasumasa Morimura’s practice of inserting himself into other identities—in this case, the identity of a ‘better’ version of myself. This reflection on the fluidity and malleability of self is central to Morimura’s work and feels particularly relevant in the age of digital filters and face-tuning apps.

In donning this mask, I confronted the dissonance between my real self and the ‘perfect’ self I often feel compelled to project, especially online. The mask is me, yet not me—an eerie doppelgänger that embodies the tensions between authenticity and artifice in our digitally enhanced reality.

Creating this piece has made me more aware of the masks I wear daily and the pressure to present a ‘perfect’ image, particularly on social media platforms. It’s prompted me to question the impact of these digital transformations on our perceptions of self and to further explore this theme in my future work.

This exercise provided valuable insights into my creative process and served as a compelling exploration of the nuances of self-identity in the modern digital age.

Image 2: The Duality of Perception

The second piece in this series is a diptych that offers a side-by-side comparison: one image is an unaltered photograph of me, and the other is the same image but manipulated to present a more conventionally attractive version.

Drawing from the dualistic approach often used by Yasumasa Morimura, this piece explores the gap between the ‘real’ and the ‘ideal.’ The manipulated image echoes the practices of digital retouching and filter usage prevalent in today’s social media culture. In contrast, the original image is a counterpoint— a testament to reality and authenticity.

Inspired by Gillian Wearing’s innovative “Signs” series, I took handwritten words—both positive and negative—that describe how I feel about myself and overlayed them onto the images. The words in the original image reflect my true feelings about myself, including insecurities and strengths that often go unseen. The words on the manipulated image, on the other hand, reflect how I am perceived when presenting the ‘ideal’ version of myself.

This juxtaposition creates a conversation between the two versions of myself, highlighting the tension and dissonance between them. It’s a poignant reminder of how manipulating our images can distort not just our physical appearance but also our self-perception and how others perceive us.

Creating this piece was a deeply introspective process. It forced me to confront my self-perceptions, insecurities, and the disparity between my true self and the identity I often project, especially online. It’s a stark examination of the duality inherent in our modern, filtered lives.

By merging the practices of Morimura and Wearing, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of their work and found innovative ways to comment on the pervasive influence of digital manipulation on our self-perception and identity. I look forward to continuing to explore this theme and further interrogate the complexity of self-representation in the age of filters.

Image 3: The Mask Poem

In the third and final piece of this series, I sought to merge visual and written self-expression. The main subject is again the mask—this digitally enhanced, idealized version of me. However, this time, it’s accompanied by a poem that I wrote, which is superimposed on the image.

The words of the poem: “A silent sentinel of my solitude, both guard and prisoner, an ingenious paradox of self. This guise, stitched of societal expectations and self-deception, a second skin, encasing the chrysalis of my repressed reality.”

The poem is a deeply personal reflection on the symbolic meaning of the mask. I sought to convey the complex emotions tied to wearing this ‘perfect’ façade: solitude, repression, and the paradox of being both guard and prisoner. The mask is a sentinel, a guard that I use to protect my vulnerabilities. Simultaneously, it’s a prison, restricting my authenticity and forcing me to conform to societal expectations and self-imposed ideals.

Drawing inspiration from Yasumasa Morimura’s fusion of different mediums, I wanted to incorporate text into my visual work to create a more profound and multi-dimensional exploration of identity. Just as Morimura uses his body to enter different identities, I used my words to delve deeper into the feelings tied to my digital identity.

Furthermore, the concept of blending image and text echoes the methods of Gillian Wearing, who often uses personal narratives and societal reflections to enhance the emotional depth and complexity of her works.

Creating this piece was both challenging and liberating. It was an emotional journey as I grappled with my insecurities and self-perception. However, it also allowed me to express my innermost feelings about the societal pressures we often face to present the ‘perfect’ image.

Overall, this series has been a transformative exploration of my identity, drawing heavily on the innovative methods of Yasumasa Morimura and Gillian Wearing and fuelled by the ongoing conversation about authenticity in our digital age. It’s a critique, an exploration, and a deeply personal reflection all at once, and I’m eager to see where these insights will take my future work.

Gillian Wearing

Coursework 1.2, Creative Arts 1.2 Creative Arts Skills, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 3: Questions of Identity

Gillian Wearing is a British artist best known for her photographic and video work that explores themes of identity, surveillance, and the divide between public and private life. Born in 1963 in Birmingham, UK, she is associated with the Young British Artists, a group that emerged in the late 1980s and is known for its experimental approach to art.

One of Wearing’s most famous works is her “Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say” series from the early 1990s. In this project, she asked strangers on the street to write whatever they were thinking on a piece of paper and then photographed them holding their sign. The results are surprisingly poignant, as people revealed personal and often unexpected thoughts, creating a type of ‘social portrait.’

Another notable work is her video piece “2 into 1” (1997), in which she filmed a mother and her two sons lip-syncing to recordings of each other’s descriptions of their family dynamics, exposing the complexities and discrepancies of their relationships.

In more recent work, Wearing has used masks and prosthetics to assume the identities of others in her self-portraits, such as in her series “Album”, where she recreated family photos or her project where she posed as famous artists like Diane Arbus or Andy Warhol. This work continues her exploration of identity and how it is constructed and performed.

Wearing was awarded the Turner Prize in 1997 for her contributions to contemporary art.

Yasumasa Morimura

Coursework 1.2, Creative Arts 1.2 Creative Arts Skills, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 3: Questions of Identity

Yasumasa Morimura is a renowned Japanese artist celebrated for his thought-provoking and inventive reinterpretations of iconic images from Western art and popular culture. Born in Osaka, Japan, in 1951, Morimura has spent much of his career challenging the Western-centric perspective of art history and popular culture and exploring themes of identity, gender, and cultural perception.

Morimura’s work primarily involves photography and digital manipulation, where he meticulously transforms himself into the subjects of iconic images. His approach to self-portraiture is highly performative. To recreate these famous images, he uses elaborate costumes, makeup, and props and sometimes digitally alters the image to perfect his transformation.

He has depicted himself as figures from Western art masterpieces, movie stars, and political figures. Some of his well-known series include “Daughter of Art History”, where he inserted his own face and body into famous Western paintings, like Édouard Manet’s “Olympia” and Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”. He also has a series called “Actors”, where he transforms into iconic Hollywood figures like Audrey Hepburn.

Through these transformations, Morimura explores the fluidity and performance of identity. He brings attention to cultural perceptions and the dominance of Western representations in art and media. His work questions the constructs of originality, authenticity, and identity.

Despite the humorous and playful nature of his transformations, Morimura’s work is deeply thoughtful and philosophical, inviting viewers to question the nature of images and their cultural implications.

Diving into the Depths of Self: A Look at the Self-Portraits of Bill Viola and Laurie Anderson

Creative Arts 1.2 Creative Arts Skills, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 3: Questions of Identity


In the world of contemporary art, the self-portrait is a medium through which artists can explore and express their identities in the most intimate ways. Two artists who have embraced this form with remarkable ingenuity are Bill Viola and Laurie Anderson. This post will delve into their respective approaches to self-portraiture and how their works can inspire our own exploration of identity.

Bill Viola: The Master of Video Art:

American artist Bill Viola is widely recognised as a pioneer in the field of video art. His self-portraits are not just about physical representation; they are philosophical explorations of human consciousness and the nature of existence.

One of Viola’s most notable self-portraits is “The Reflecting Pool” (1977-1979). In this work, Viola experiments with time and space using video. The piece begins with Viola jumping into a pool, but rather than showing the expected splash, the video instead freezes, with Viola suspended in mid-air, creating a mesmerising and thought-provoking scene that is both a reflection of Viola’s own identity and a comment on the nature of perception and reality.

Viola’s self-portraits often revolve around themes of birth, death, and transformation, using water and light as powerful metaphors. His exploration of these universal experiences helps the viewer connect with his work on a deeply personal level.

Laurie Anderson: A Unique Blend of Performance and Technology:

Laurie Anderson is an American avant-garde artist, composer, and filmmaker whose work spans performance art, pop music, and multimedia projects. Her self-portraits often take the form of performances that combine music, video, and storytelling.

“O Superman” (1981), one of Anderson’s most well-known works, is a great example of her unique approach to self-portraiture. This eight-minute song, which reached number two in the UK charts, presents Anderson’s voice altered by a vocoder, creating a robotic tone. The lyrics, filled with personal and political commentary, act as a form of self-reflection and self-expression.

In “The End of the Moon” (2004), a performance piece, Anderson narrates personal stories and thoughts, accompanied by her violin playing. The piece becomes a self-portrait through her stories and music, offering glimpses into her life, beliefs, and experiences.


Bill Viola and Laurie Anderson offer compelling examples of how self-portraits can go beyond physical representation to explore deeper aspects of identity and existence. Their work serves as a potent reminder that the self-portrait is not merely an exercise in vanity but can be a profound exploration of our place in the world. Their innovative use of video, sound, and performance in their self-portraits provides a wealth of inspiration for artists looking to explore their own identities in creative and meaningful ways.

It is fascinating to see how these artists use their chosen mediums to navigate the realm of self-portraiture, and it has been an enriching experience studying their works. As I continue my journey in creating self-portraits, I will undoubtedly carry the insights gleaned from these artists’ works with me.